A good book for me is always one you think about months after reading it. I loved it.
One of the main stories is about a video cartridge of which when anyone plays it the contents will end up watching it repeatedly until they can’t do anything thing else. We also learn about the man who made it, his family, one of the cast members and everyone else who wants the cartridge for their own ends.
This book is well researched on the themes of addiction. It also looks at the pressures of competition, just trying to survive and mental health issues. We see the horrors of commercialisation and the things people will do to get what they want. There’s one character (Mr Pelumis) I was particularly interested in who plays a significant part of the Tennis Academy we see in the book but the last time we hear of him is in one of the footnotes.
Criticisms of the book (which are many) is that it’s a bit long with more than 1000 pages including footnotes and some of the sections of the book I did struggle to get through. Despite this however, it really does add to the world.
Despite the criticisms I found the book incredibly rewarding. This is probably my favourite of Wallace’s work. I liked some of the stories in The Girl With the Curious Hair and This Is Water but was not a big fan of Broom of the System, some of his other short stories and the Pale King although unfinished I found harder to get through than Infinite Jest despite some individually good chapters.
When reading a book I try to take the Roland Barthes approach of just taking the text as is. With this book however, I ended up obsessing over who this author was and what were his intentions.
A personality who had his moments there is no denying that Wallace was a very complex character with some fascinating stories before his tragic suicide in 2008. We know he had his own problems with mental health and his treatment of the poet Mary Karr is somewhat reprehensible but I found there to be a man who struggled with the world around him.
Overall I recommend this book on its own merits and it is a credit to the English language.
Get the ebook version if you do, easier to carry.